Spiderman- Into The Spiderverse: A Review

Posted: 01/10/2019 in Uncategorized

into the spider

With a 97 percent approval rating  on Rotten Tomatoes and such pronouncements as “the greatest Spiderman movie ever”, I endeavoured to view this film with an objective mind. Miles Morales’ Spiderman is a relatively new character, created in the late 90s in a universe building venture to engage newer/younger fans. The Ultimate Universe that ensued presenting new-ish takes on existing long time characters delivered a mixed bag. With M.M. however, a palpable hit character was created. When stepping out of the shadow of Marvel’s flagship and best selling character Spiderman, the film had to make its mark and successfully define itself as something worth viewing considering the current saturation of the character via various media platforms. Was it successful in doing this? More importantly was it a good movie? My review follows below.

This film was visually dazzling and unquestionably ground breaking. The style of animation was something fresh and new. My concern was that the film would be purely a launching point for Miles Morales’ Ultimate Spiderman at the possible expense of the legendary material that informed it. My fears were quickly allayed with some pretty darn superior story telling. The voice work was equally solid; the dramatic performances no less so.

First and foremost, the film delves into the Spiderman mythos. It is brilliantly self aware and Chris Pine’s Peter Parker/Spiderman captures the heart of the character with such superb opening material as:

Peter Parker [narrating]  Alright, let’s do this one last time. My name is Peter Parker. I was bitten by a radioactive spider and for ten years I’ve been the one and only Spider-Man. I’m pretty sure you know the rest. I saved a bunch of people, fell in love, saved the city, and then I saved the city again and again and again… And, uh… I did this….

The “this” is of course a funny as hell reference to the much reviled dancing Spiderman sequence from the intensely divisive Spiderman III. The sequences which precede it however freely mine the Maguire/Raimi stories with due respect. Honestly, while I do really like the current Tom Holland variant, pound for pound the first two Spiderman films still stand out as ageless classics. This being said, this frenzied amalgam of both hero and villains simply killed. I had a minor complaint about Liev Shreiber’s Kingpin/Wilson Fisk…and it is twofold….the essential Ray Donovan Southie accent fell flat and the animation which made him appear as a massive “Gru-esque” parody of the original character devalued his villainy to some extent. His story arc was solid and again freely mined the source material to superb effect however.

Shameik Moore brought Miles Morales to life with a combination of heart, fear, fearlessness and utter genuine nature. Miles is a kid. He is finding his place in a new school with his parents’ hope he can excel in a safer, more refined environment. He is anxious, funny, kind and innocent. His cooler manner however makes him more of a natural among kids his age and he does not fall into the trap of isolation the original Spiderman fell  prey to. You like him almost immediately and this allows you to invest in his character. His interactions with new student Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) resonate as they would with anyone who has been young and wanted to impress a young woman. His interactions with his Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) however  opens up his character, allowing him a more worldly, and occasionally rebellious view. His reactions to being gifted with powers beyond his imagining were astoundingly relate-able. He is again…a kid.

With “S.I.T.S.”, characters are not who they appear to be. Characters that have been long  defined become something far greater. You will never look at “The Prowler” again in the same light. This universe’s rendition to him is akin to Todd MacFarlane’s Spawn and duly fearsome. Kathryn Hahn’s “Dr.Octopus” was a very bright take on a long existing character. This is a fun movie, but it has due gravitas, including loss. The encounter between Spiderman (Pine) and Fisk (Shreiber) is brutal. A later moment between the Prowler and Morales’ Spiderman is no less so.

The film was overall a very pleasant surprise. Nic Cage’s Spiderman Noir was just perfect. A character I expected to fully dislike, namely John Mulaney’s ‘Spider Ham” actually delivered both splendid comedic lines and tight action sequences. Actually pretty much every action sequence in this movie was outstanding.

The use of a collider with the purpose of breaching dimensions is an oft used plot device in sci fi fare, but here, it played extremely well and felt fresh. Each character’s awareness of their particular lot, including the cost of being in a foreign dimension led to both cool visual moments and a genuinely tight, entertaining narrative.

Jake Johnson’s more beat down version of Spiderman initially grates but quickly yields gold both in his interactions with Miles as a potential mentor and later true inspiration. The banking off each character, with deepest nods to Gwen (Steinfeld) and Johnson’s Parker/Spidey, allowed for each character to tap into their better selves. The initial failure of the “hobo-esque’ Spiderman plays initially for laughs but quickly pushes forth the true toll of being a hero for over twenty years.

With “Spider verse”, Sony gets it right, giving due credit to a character who has proven so successful in every respect for their organisation. With this run, the notion that a film outside the standard MCU continuity could be so very good without direct Marvel oversight creates a hope for future offerings. Spiderman – Into the Spiderverse is as close to an animated masterpiece as you can get.

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